Thursday, 13 July 2017

Words-worth

Tautological Pleonasms

After a while on a blog / Twitter there is a tendency to repeat oneself. I've done it a fair bit but in my defence I'm not the only one. At least I don't repeat myself in the same sentence like these, like these:-


'It looks like a busy weekend on the ferries, particularly Saturday and Sunday - Peter Powell

'It was a sudden and unexpected surprise' - BBC correspondent

'I've said I've never broken the drug laws of my country, and that is the absolute truth' - Bill Clinton

'It's like deja vu all over again' - Yogi Berra

'I never make predictions, especially about the future' - Samuel Goldwyn

The confusion for many is whether the above are examples of tautology or pleonasms. There appears to be a grey area between the two. Tautology to my mind is repetition in different words. A pleonasm is 'redundancy' or unnecessary use of words already implied. Peter Powell's quote could still fall into either category. Bill Clinton's comment 'absolute truth' is clearly tautology whereas I consider Samuel Goldwyn's gem as a pleonasm, as is Yogi Berra's.

The BBC correspondent gives us a different perspective. In general pleonasms and tautology are to be avoided when writing, yet in common speech they abound. As with the BBC correspondent (I'll give him the benefit of the doubt), repetition is often used for emphasis. There are other words used unnecessarily, oddly enough more common in writing than speech. 'But', 'that' and 'which' are the main culprits. When writing I try to limit the number of times I use these. Try omitting these words when you write and see if your sentence still makes sense.


He didn't know that it was gone
He didn't know it was gone

I started to get bored with semantics, at the end of the day who cares what it's called, just stop it! So the devil in me thought of how to repeat myself without actually doing so, there are some curious examples of how to achieve this.


The bandage was wound around the wound.

Your invalid insurance is invalid.

The dump was so full it had to refuse more refuse.

After a number of injections my arm got number.

The farm was used to produce produce.

That's all well and good but if you want to get really silly you could take it to the next level with this:-

If one doctor doctors another doctor, does the doctor who doctors the doctor doctor the doctor the way the doctor he is doctoring doctors? Or does he doctor the doctor the way the doctor who doctors doctors?

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